Making CrossFit a regular part of your life will produce a huge variety of benefits. Better health and fitness levels, more energy, bigger muscles, and weight loss just to name a few. But let’s be honest for a second (and a little vain!).
One of the top reasons people start to get involved with Crossfit is because they see the abs on Crossfit Athletes! Having a set of thick and chiseled abs definitely look great aesthetically and they can provide great support in the core which leads to less injury.
This article will look at some of the best Crossfit ab exercises to build a strong core.
Best CrossFit Ab Exercises
1) Glute-Ham Developer Sit Up
The GHD, or Glute-Ham developer, can be used to form several different exercises to train the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. One of the exercises, the GHD Sit up, is used to train the core and is one of the few exercises that seem to be unique to Crossfit circles. However, more people should use it because it’s a killer ab workout. Due to the set-up, it allows your core to get a full range of motion. You can easily intensify this exercise by going lower and lower until you can touch the ground with your hand. Even still, the GHD can also be used to train the lower back muscle as well.
GHD and optional weight
a) Adjust the large pad and foot holders so that your hips come just off the pad.
b) Keeping a flat back and your arms raised above the head, lower your body backwards until your hand touches the ground or you can no longer maintain a straight back
c) Allow some flexion in the knee on the descent
d) At the bottom, extend your legs and pull your body back up
This is one of the toughest workouts for your core so start slowly and ramp the intensity over time
2) ABmat Sit Up
The Abmat Sit Up is different to normal sit-ups as the movement is done with your knees bent and down to side in a butterfly position. This will prevent the use of your hip flexors which will cause more activation of the core. These are a great exercise to use on their own or in a WOD
a) Place Abmat on the ground and sit just in front of it. The wedged part should be wedged between
b) Place your legs spread open in a butterfly position
c) Lay back with your arms stretched out
d) Contract your abs and pull your body up and touch the ground in front of your toes
e) Continue your reps in a controlled manner
3) Toes to Bar
Looking for something a bit harder; try some toe to bars. This movement involves hanging from a bar and then using your core to pull your entire lower body up so that your feet can touch the bar. This exercise requires great core strength and mobility as you will pull your feet above your ears! Try to lessen any swinging motion which may arise in order to concentrate on the core.
a) Hang from a bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart
b) Pull your shoulders back and push your chest out
c) Tighten and brace your core and keep your back straight as you lift your feet up.
e) Curl your hips a bit at the top of the movement
4) Hanging Knee Raises
This can be a great progression exercise to the “toes to bar” as the movement is very similar. The difference is that you will bring your knees to your chest. These are also a great way to increase grip strength as you will need to hold your entire body weight with your grip. Tip: Make sure to curl your hips
4) Hollow Hold
The Hollow hold is one of those deceiving movements. They look easy but are definitely not. You simply lay on the ground and pull up your arms and legs off the ground while “pushing” the belly button into the ground. You then hold. Hollow holds are more difficult than holding a plank position so try slowly.
Just your body and a pad
a) If on a hard floor, lay a pad down, and lay down face up.
b) Hold the arms and legs should be held straight out keeping toes pointed
c) Pull them up slowly to make a round bowl shape
d) Make sure to keep your lower back and spine firmly planted
e) Hold your hands and feet still for the allotted time
As the name implies, the V-Situp requires you to make a v shape with your body. This is done by lifting your toes and arms together above the middle of your torso. This movement is great to hit the upper ab will be sure to make them scream!
The floor, you, and a pad
a) If on a hard floor, place a mat on the ground a lay down
b) Have your legs straight and arms stretched out over your head
c) Keep your legs and arms straight while contracting your core. Pull your toes and hand to the middle until they reach each other. Your body should represent a V
d) Lower your arms and legs back down until they reach the floor
6) Double Unders
Double Unders aren’t a crossfit ab exercise specifically. However, they can be used to scorch away fat and reveal the strong ab muscle you have built underneath.
a) Begin to jump rope
b) When you are ready, jump but swing the jump rope under your feet two times before you land
c) You can do these consecutively or you can break them up as you progress
7) Russian Twist
The Russian twist is one of the best exercises for your obliques (or “side” abs). It involves sitting on the floor, lifting an object rotating your core and upper body one side to the other.
1 weight implement. Kettlebells tend to work best
a) Sit on the ground with your knees bent and the implement between your legs
b) Grab the implement by having your hands in a neutral position to hold the kettlebell
c) Pick up the kettlebell and rotate your entire core and upper body keeping your shoulder straight.
d) Rotate until your shoulder are now facing one side and touch the kettlebell on the floor
e) Rotate the other way
Tip: Make sure that your shoulders are fully rotating and you are not just moving the kettlebell with your hands
8) Mountain Climbers
Mountain climbers are a great core movement and all-around conditioning exercise to use in your workout. This movement is very much as if you are running in place while on the ground. Due to the fact that this movement is done in large volumes, it adds endurance and strength to develop a strong core.
a) Start in a plank position
b) Pull one of your knees up to your chest keeping your foot and leg off the ground. You want to bring your knee past your elbows so act as if you are bringing your knee up to your ears
c) Bring your leg back and repeat with the other leg
d) Continue these movements increasing the pace
Tip: You can alter this movement by bringing one knee to the opposite elbow
9) L Sit
The L Sit is an advanced gymnastic move. This is one of the toughest core exercises there is. It works all the muscles in your abs, especially your lower muscles. This should only be used in advanced workouts.
Parallettes bars or two boxes
a) Place the paralette bars on the floor a little wider than the width of your shoulders. If you don’t have paralette bars, you can use a box. You can also do off the floor directly but this is much harder
b) Place your feet on the ground extended to help setup
c) Keeping your elbows locked and back straight, pull your legs and feet off the floor
d) Attempt to pull your legs out so that they are straight and your body creates an L.
e) If you need to scale the movement, you can keep one foot on the floor at a time. Or, you can just bring your knees up rather than sticking your feet out
10) Anti-Rotation Planks
This is a great way to train the abs the way they are supposed to function which is preventing excessive rotation. Similar to a plank, these will require you to pull one arm off the floor. Use these to train your abs in an isometric manner as they must contract to maintain stability.
Floor, your body, and an optional pad
a) Place mat on the floor and get into a plank position.
b) Keep you back straight and pull one arm off the floor
c) Brace your abs and core to keep your body and shoulders straight.
e) Repeat with the other side
11) Jumping Knee Tucks
Jumping knee tucks are great exercises that train multiple muscle groups. You can also use these as a metabolic conditioning movement in addition to training your abs. This movement is unique in that it trains the ab muscles in with an explosive manner If you are really tough, you can do the same movement but add squats in between
a) Stand in a natural stance.
b) Bend down as if you’re doing a squat. You can go down into a full squat or all the way up to a quarter squat depending on your needs
c) Explode up and jump
d) While in mid-air, bring your knees up as high as you can into a tucked position
e) Land with slightly bent knees and continue directly into the next rep
12) Seated Knee Tucks
Seated knee tucks are somewhat similar to the jumping knee tuck except you’re sitting, as the name implies. Even though you are not jumping, this movement can be harder due to the constant tension on the abs.
Your Body and a mat!
1) If needed, place a mat on the ground and sit down
2) Lean back slightly and use your hands to brace yourself
3) Extend your legs out in front of you
4) Lift your legs up and pull your knees into your chest
5) Extend your legs for 1 rep
Tips: You can make these significantly harder by not allowing your feet to touch between reps. Then, you can really amp up the intensity by taking your arms off the ground. When you bring your knees into your chest, wrap your arms around your legs
Now Go Sculpt Your Abs
These movements are extremely versatile and can be used in WODS, 10-minute workouts, or can work as a part of normal workout routines. Studies have found that training the abs across a wide spectrum of reps is best for increasing size and strength so vary your workout often. One of the best ways to see improvement is to use an amrap to see how many reps you can do in a minute. After training them for a month, do another amrap and try (or do) to beat the rep number!
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I strengthen my core for CrossFit?
The best way is to perform the exercises listed on a regular basis. These are great as standalone movements. However, they will be the movements you will see most often in Crossfit. Therefore, train for what you will do. Remember to work them across a range of intensities (5-20 reps) for best results.
What are the 3 best ab exercises?
If I had to choose three exercises, I would first choose GHD due to its huge range of motion. Second would be Hollow Holds as they will train your entire core, upper and lower, isometrically. Third would be anti-rotation movements as they train our core the way they were designed to.
What is the most difficult ab exercise?
The GHD is the most difficult exercise and has left many people out of training after going too hard. Go slow with this movement.